I had a mother of a bride, who on the morning of her daughter’s wedding made an odd request. She asked me not to photograph her. At all. I’m sure the shocked look on my face was unchecked. I immediately responded with a smile, “But you are part of the story today. Of course, you will be in the pictures.” To which she went on to explain that she always hated pictures of herself, that she never liked the way she looked, that seeing herself in pictures made her feel like the ugliest woman in the world. Yes, she used those words.
And I’m telling you – the woman that stood before me was none of those things. Far from it. She was lovely, and in so many more ways than just conventional beauty. It broke my heart a little to hear her say this. She wasn’t fronting, she had thought about it and planned to tell me this, that was clear. As we had this conversation, on the other side of the room were several of her children – women themselves. They were gorgeous, beautiful souls. They were full of confidence, intelligence, boldness, kindness, and grace. These were the women she raised. I turned to look at them after this conversation and wondered how someone who felt that way about herself could mold women like these.
There were no words I could offer this Mom in that moment to assure her that she was indeed, beautiful. I was at a loss for what to say. As the day wore on and I sought to include her in pictures and capture her reactions and moments that swirled around her – she would tsk at me and shake her head no in admonishment whenever she saw my camera pointed her way. Times when she should have been so wrapped up in the moment and living it, but instead she was policing the capturing of her likeness.
What I came to want to say to her was this:
I’ve spent the day with your daughters, your sons, your husband, and your friends and relatives. I’ve heard them speak of you. I’ve heard their words, watched their faces. I’ve seen the look on your daughter’s face as you walked into the room dressed for this special day. I’ve heard your new son-in-law tell stories about you. I witnessed multiple toasts that reflected on your kind heart, your efforts, your love for your family. I’ve seen you through the eyes of those who love you. And I want you to know something.
You are the most beautiful woman.
They see none of your so-called flaws. They look at you and see only your love for them. They see the Mom who dried their tears, who created imaginary worlds to play in, who propped up their dreams, who helped create the day you are living now. I wish I could show you how they see you. I might, if you let me. They see nothing but your beauty. Because your beauty isn’t in the physical things you are dwelling on – it’s in your actions. To them, there are no double chins, no thick arm, no sagging skin, no wrinkles, no gray hairs. Only you. And you are beautiful beyond measure.
So be in the photographs. You are a huge part of their lives and a huge part of this story. To look back and not see you present in the collective memory of this day would be such a crime. In fact, be in all the pictures, every day.
**Moms included in this photo collection are for illustrative purposes only, and this story isn’t about any of these ladies pictures here. In fact, though it is inspired by one Mom I met, it is shared because after over 300 weddings I’ve found this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. It doesn’t matter who it is about – just a gentle reminder to give yourself some grace, try to appreciate how others see you, and love yourself enough to be included.**